I often wish British politics could be as exciting as events I hear about in other democracies around the world. Today began with the surprising announcement that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (2007-2010; he led Labor to victory after 11 years of Liberal-National rule) was to challenge current Prime Minister Julia Gillard as leader of the Labor Party. There have been challenges in the past which Rudd lost, but this particular challenge bears resemblance to events in 2010 where Gillard outmaneuvered Rudd and took his position as Labor leader, ultimately winning the election.
By 57 votes to 45, Rudd won the leadership vote and has become the new leader of the Labor party. This doesn’t mean he is now the Prime Minister – Gillard still has to submit her resignation to the Governor-General before this could happen, and with an election due to be held possibly as early as August Rudd certainly wouldn’t have much time in power. This result certainly does spell the end of Julia Gillard’s political career, however. She announced that she will not seek re-election later this year and is set to retire from politics. At least one of my 2013 predictions have come true.
So why did this happen? This seems like an act of desperation from the Labor Party, which has been performing very poorly in opinion polls and has seemed certain to be facing defeat in the next election. I don’t know a great deal about Australian politics but Gillard does seem a very unpopular figure, perhaps partly due to Australia’s poor economic performance and her terrible record on immigration. Throwing migrants onto an island is a really bizarre idea. My Australian cousins have certainly spoken about her negatively various times and a quick scan of the social networks reveals far more support for Rudd than Gillard. So is this a last-ditch attempt of the Labor Party to save itself? I suspect many Labor MPs feel he has a better change of leading the party to victory or, failing that, avoiding total wipe-out – and therefore making their own seats more secure. Time will tell.
Having browsed the general policies of the main Australian political parties I think I’d probably be most inclined to support the Greens, who are currently in a formal alliance with Labor and, I’m glad to see, generally poll at around 10%. But even with Green support I don’t think Labor is likely to win the election.